Soaring to new heights
Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series on internships at Crook County Schools.
On a Tuesday afternoon, Ronald Forseth, a senior at Crook County High School, reports for his afternoon job, where his employer, Samson Sky, is developing the Switchblade Flying Sports Car.
Not only is it a dream job, but it is Ronald's first regular job. He began his position at Samson Sky when he was 16 and only a sophomore at CCHS.
"No teenagers have ever been able to experience that," he said.
The job placement was made by the Youth Transition Program, or YTP, at CCHS. The program provides job training and instruction while eligible students are in school and follow-up support services for up to one year after to help students get better jobs as young adults.
The YTP Program works closely with Vocational Rehabilitation, and the agency helps to remove barriers that prevent clients from successfully beginning a new job. In Ronald's case, his new employer needed him to be able to drive as soon as possible.
"It was helpful to me by being able to support me in driver's education so I could get my license and be able to drive around and understand the ways of the road better," Ronald said.
He started picking up deliveries after he got his driver's license. Vocational Rehabilitation provided funding for driver's training and license.
"It was helpful to have (YTP's) assistance in balancing his efforts in school with a new job," said Martha Bousfield, CEO's assistant at Samson.
In February 2019, Ronald received a state award from Vocational Rehabilitation as student of the year for his personal growth and his internship at Samson Sky. He has continued to grow in his career and to make strides in his personal growth as well, and he still works with the YTP program.
"He's doing great," said Patty Bates, youth transitional specialist for CCHS.
The first full-scale prototype of the Switchblade Flying Sports Car is being built in Prineville, with a small professional team working locally. Samson has engineers, consultants and a highly specialized support team from across the country. Samson describes the Switchblade as a three-wheel, street-legal vehicle driven from the owner's garage to a local airport. At the touch of a button, the wings swing out, and the tail extends into flying mode, allowing the pilot to fly the registered aircraft directly to their destination at up to 190 mph and 13,000 feet. Upon landing, the flying sports car transforms back to driving mode – the wings and tail safely stowed and protected.
"Over the last two years, Ronald has been very helpful in many areas, including inventory, shipping, picking up important materials for the build team, helping keep the hangar clean and orderly, etc.," Bousfield said. "He has also assisted with videography and video editing and taken a lot of initiative in this area."
Ronald enjoys video editing and said he often works with different video formats. He has assisted with different videos for Samson Sky for their online newsletters and Facebook marketing.
"I have had to figure out the right way to keep videos organized around there, and what is the best system to be using," Ronald said. "I have enjoyed a lot of the videos and seeing what we can do to get the information out there to the public and community."
Samson CEO Sam Bousfield said, "Ronald is always willing to assist where needed and interested in learning new skills, which is a great combination. One of the things that really stands out is when he organized a couple of five-camera video shoots when we were filming some critical wing testing."
Ronald said his job at Samson Sky has helped him learn to listen and communicate with other staff. He works with a team of co-workers that includes engineers, technology staff and other professionals. Honing his social skills and increasing his self-confidence have been important stepping stones at Samson Sky.
Kim Forseth, Ronald's mother, said he has gained a great deal of self-confidence because of the position at Samson Sky, as well as developing confidence in working with others.
"Working with others is a huge one, and feeling accepted and in his place," she added. "At the end of the day, he inspires me. He has taken this job and run with it. He has been willing to change his life for it, and he has been willing to change his attitude for it and everything about him for this job. He has dedicated his future to realizing that the future is brighter than he might have thought it was before. This job has helped him branch out to know what he was capable of doing. It's the best thing that has happened to him."
Ronnie Forseth Sr., Ronald's father, has also observed that his son has become more comfortable working with people. He has also noticed that Ronald has become better at solving problems and getting around roadblocks. Ronald's father started working when he was 15, and he also had help from Ivan Polson, a former CCHS teacher, in launching his career. He appreciates the value of mentors and professionals who help students get their start.
"Ronald also really likes to work," he added.
Asked what the next step is with the Switchblade prototype, Sam Bousfield explained that the company is working on some engine integration and will then be moving into taxi and flight testing. The company reports that they are now on reservation position No. 1175, with owners and reservation holders in 36 countries worldwide.
"Based on this backlog, the Switchblade may very well be the most popular flying car in history," he said.
Ronald has been able to transfer the skills gained from his job to other interests as well. He is involved in FFA and 4-H. He also attended Young Entrepreneur Business Week through 4-H, a summer conference.
After graduation, Ronald plans on dual enrollment at Oregon State University-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College, studying marketing and advertising. His job helped him decide on the career choice.
Ronald feels privileged to have the work experience, which he views as pretty cool. He said Samson is doing something that's never been done before, and he is "working on a project that no one has ever been able to experience."
He also values the team at Samson Sky and being able to learn from them.
"I am hoping to stick with my job as long as I can," he said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.